22 July 2015

Elliott - 11 Months Old

On one hand, I can't believe this is the penultimate monthly Elliott update. On the other hand, are these torturous monthly shoots over yet?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: our Elliott is on the move! He is one speedy army crawler. Within the last couple of days, he is spending more and more time up on his knees, even doing a bit of traditional crawling. Mostly, though, his knees are used to get him high enough to pull up on whatever object is nearest. He has done very little cruising but seems surprisingly stable when standing, holding hands.

He has been teething pretty much the whole month. His first two teeth are still working their way down. His bottom middle two teeth are through the surface but not much else. A fifth tooth (top middle on the right side) has just peeked through the gum. As a result, many nights have included some sort of interruption at some point, and naps have been less than stellar. Poor boy.

Elliott's personality is shining through more every day. As I've said previously, he is persistent, and redirection is successful less than half the time. He's most interested in what his sister is playing with that that very moment. When she's not here, he loves her Duplo (and the table) and putting things into and taking them out of her pots and pans. Elliott has developed quite a love for books. When his bedroom door opens, he almost always jets out to start taking them out of the shelf. When left alone, he can spend a long time (in baby time) looking at board book. Reading time before naps is one of the few times in the day when our busy boy actually stops for a few minutes. Elliott continues to be generous with his (vampire) smiles and puts his arms out to be held by familiar people.

Elliott still only signs for milk, but I have noticed him paying close attention to the other signs I've been doing with him; hopefully a breakthrough is around the corner. He continues to babble and be rather vocal. In the last week or so, Elliott has started to repeat our words by making noises in similar intonations. I've had him do this with banana, brown bear, all done, and a few others. Yesterday, he said "dah" while pushing away from me and trying to get down. Today, he said "bah" while reach for a ball and "nah nah nah" while shaking his head side to side. I think a language explosion may be on the horizon, and I can't wait! After catching Madeleine's first word on video (at almost exactly the same age!), I feel a bit of pressure to over-document.

In addition to language output, I've also noticed that he seems to be more aware of his behavior and instructions given to him. Diaper changes have been more pleasant since I realized that he actually listens when I tell him "no rolling on the changing table" like I actually mean it rather than just for play. He responds when we call to him and is starting to follow basic instructions ("arms up" "come to the table for dinner").

Elliott still eats well and turns away very little. When he turns away food, we continue to offer it at subsequent meals. I'm currently working on getting him to eat one of his sister's favorites: cottage cheese. This week, I started weaning by eliminating his feeding after his morning nap. I figure that this one usually came right before lunch, so he's still getting fed in the event that he's hungry when he wakes from his nap. I'm still nursing him at wake up, after his afternoon nap, and at bedtime. While I look longingly at my non-nursing friendly fall wardrobe, I also cherish these last remaining weeks of quiet time with my otherwise busy baby boy.

By some miracle, I snapped this one (and only one) shot of Elliott on his back on his sheepskin before he pulled the tie over his head and scooted away. Look how long and lean he's getting with all this activity!

Oh, I do love my little gingersnap! 

17 July 2015

Friday I'm in Love

So I haven't been the most faithful Friday I'm in Love blogger this summer, but I'm stopping by today with some love!

ONE: Charlotte's Good News

I was overjoyed to learn this week that Misha's beautiful and brave niece, Charlotte, is making great progress towards beating her cancer...and all before age 2. Keep going, fierce one!

TWO: Schick Intuition

I know that a razor is a weird thing to love, but I am lovin' the Schick Intuition. I first read about this when Meg blogged about it while I was pregnant with Elliott. I bought one and loved it during pregnancy, but I figured that I'd go back to a regular ol' razor + shaving gel once I could reach my ankles again. My feet are well within my reach these days, but I still love the simplicity of this razor and cream in one and the added nick resistance it gives a clumsy-with-a-razor girl like me.

THREE: No means no. 

Consent has been a big topic in our house lately. Madeleine loves to love on Elliott, but he is getting to an age where he has sometimes had enough of her hugs. We're constantly telling her that his cries are his way of saying "no" right now and that we have to respect his wishes and stop when he says "no." I love how this video sums it up.

Admittedly, I was pretty oblivious about this whole notion until I saw the video, and I now try my best to respect Madeleine's wishes regarding her body (easier said than done, especially with a strong-willed potty-training toddler) and remind her to do the same for others (for example, telling her to ask her friends if they want a hug before she goes in for the cuddle). I'm certainly a work in progress, but I hope that this foundation will serve our kids well as they get older and face more difficult situations where they have to be confident in their right to say "no" and in respecting others' right to do the same.

FOUR: Nordstrom Sale

On a lighter note, I've been loving the Nordstrom Anniversary sale, which opens to the public today. I have so far resisted these adorable dresses (this and this). I was thrilled to see the Zella Live In collection in the sale. They are the only bottoms I've ever found that allow me to work out without needing a single adjustment. I can't wait to see the tops I ordered because I get a little giddy thinking about wearing clothes that don't have to be nursing-accessible. I can't wait to see my fall capsule shape up after my purchases arrive!

Be sure to check out what the other Friday gals are loving: MishaKendraMary BethLauraAileenJessica, and Ashley. What are you loving?

08 July 2015

It started with the closet...

Like so many, I was incredibly inspired when my friend, Denaye, emptied her closet and built a wardrobe capsule from 37 pieces of clothing. Until I saw her (viral) post demonstrating how a few pieces can turn into so many outfits, I thought it was a little crazy. After seeing her photographic evidence, however, I thought that this might be just the change I need.

Over the past three or four months, this idea of the freedom of having less has changed several aspects of my life, starting with my closet. Let's start with a look at the before, where my closet held a (large) collection of lingering maternity clothes, cheap clothes purchased between pregnancies, some impulse buys that I thought would cheer me up after having Elliott, and some aspirational pieces kept from before getting pregnant with Madeleine. Oh, and let's not forget the gifts, sentimental, and too-expensive-to-ever-discard items.


I didn't follow the Kondo rules outlined in this article; rather, I started with a slow purge. Each time I walked into my closet, I would take out an item or two that I knew I wouldn't wear. You see, despite having all those clothes hanging in my closet, I wouldn't even consider wearing most of them. Over a few weeks and very little effort, I removed the visual clutter, leaving me with a manageable amount for the actual purge. When evaluating what would go back into my closet, I kept definite spring/summer "keep" clothes, boxed up "keep" clothes that were better suited for fall or winter, and set aside clothes that I felt deserved one more wear to make the final decision...and then I wore those clothes and only kept the winners. I ended up with maybe a dozen pieces of clothing, which were joined by some terrific pieces picked out with the help of a personal shopper (I know it sounds luxurious, but it's free and exceptionally efficient).

Throughout the process, I did not fixate on a particular number of items but rather chose clothes that (1) feel great on me, (2) make me feel great, and (3) are appropriate for me right now - in this season of the year and of my life. Nothing more. Nothing less. I really took Caroline's approach to heart, and sticking with these principles rather than hard and fast rules gave me control over the process and caused me to continually reflect on why I wanted to do this.

I lived with my nearly empty closet for a few weeks before completely reconfiguring it. My closet now has plenty of space for my clothes and shoes, some inspirational art, space for displaying my accessories, storage space, and some blank space. Do you see that empty floor?!



In the end, I chose just shy of 40 pieces of everyday clothes, 10 pairs of shoes (plus business shoes saved for a future return to the office), a small stack of PJs, a stack of workout clothes, a few favorite special occasion little black dresses spanning four sizes, and a small stack of multi-purpose tank tops. I'll share a closer look at my summer capsule in a future post. At the outset, this smaller wardrobe was largely expected; I didn't expect many of its other effects.

I smile every time I walk into my closet. No joke. I love that my days now start and end in this peaceful place rather than the disorganized, overwhelming hole my closet used to be.

While a wardrobe capsule can make getting dressed a no-brainer, I find that I am more deliberate about what I wear. Most evenings, I pick out an outfit, accessories, and shoes for the next day. Because they are all in view and in one spot, it's simple to do and results in a much more put together look than what I was previously sporting. Because all of the clothes in my closet are ones I love, I don't have to wait for any particular occasion to wear something special.

My laundry has plummeted. Do I have your attention? I often give things a second wear before a washing, and I generally have fewer items of clothes. So, less laundry. Less folding. It's beautiful. This is perhaps my biggest motivating factor in planning to do kid wardrobe capsules in the future.

This project spread like wildfire through the rest of my house. I sorted through outerwear, outgrown kids' clothes, linens, toiletries, you name it. Fortunately, George was on board with this purge and even sorted out bags worth of his own clothes. We're also fortunate to have a local reputable charity that will come and pick up large donations.

Beyond our house, I've been inspired to clear out other parts of my life, like my inbox. I'm still not great at responding to email, but now it's easy to see how many unanswered messages I have from among the 50 or 75 in my inbox rather than the 5000 I had just a month or two ago. I finally went through my promotions inbox and unsubscribed to (almost) all of those pesky marketing emails.

While I am a work in progress, this single change has had a bigger and more profound impact on my ability to feel in control of my life than anything I've done in my adult life. Thank you for the inspiration, Denaye

06 July 2015

June 2015 Recap

Are you ready for another photo-heavy post? June was a really busy month for us with lots happening.

At the beginning of the month, we visited Ohio

Shortly after getting back, I ran my first half marathon and braved the expo the day before with the kiddos at lunch/nap time. Madeleine was unsure of the gecko, and Elliott was focused on his snack.

It was the hottest June on record, so we spent a fair bit of time doing this. 

Elliott discovered built-in musical instruments, and Madeleine happily joined in the (loud) fun.

Madeleine loved picking (wild) raspberries from our backyard at every opportunity. I love anything that bears fruit and requires nothing of me. 

We celebrated Father's Day by inviting a favorite chef to make dinner for us and another couple. Yum is an understatement.

"I need some help, Mummy. Elliott wants to wear these." And so it begins.

We thoroughly enjoyed hosting our cousins (my first cousin and his family), including taking them to our wedding site at Gas Works Park. 

Around town, Elliott was incredibly patient to adjust naps or take them on the go.

Standing on the steps where we said our vows had a lot of extra meaning given that it was the day of the (awesome) SCOTUS decision clarifying marriage. 

The birthday girl jumped for joy at riding a ferry for her birthday. 

Once she opened her bike helmet, she refused to take it off, even during birthday cake time.

I will never tire of this. 

...or this.

Summer, must you go so fast?

02 July 2015

Madeleine's Third Year in Review

Madeleine turned three last weekend, so it's time for a photo- and detail-heavy post summarizing her year. I love looking back at the changes Madeleine has undergone each year. You can find year one here and year two here. This seems like a particularly big year as she was just a young toddler when the year started and has blossomed into a preschooler with lots of her own thoughts and the ability to be largely independent. And let's not forget that this was the year in which Madeleine became a big sister. 

Photo Credit: Evantide Photography
June 2014 - Age 2

Photo Credit: The Happy Film Company
December 2014 - Age 2.5

June 2015 - Age 3

Madeleine's personality is a wonderful mix of bookworm, social butterfly, curious climber, and nurturing little mama. We are so thankful that Madeleine has always been drawn to books. She loves to sit down and look through hers a stack at a time and routinely uses books as a way to wind down at the beginning of her nap. She is almost always willing to sit and listen to any book that anyone is willing to read to her. She went through a period this year where she was tearing (sometimes into tiny little pieces) her books, so we had to take them all out of her room. It ended up working out okay because they're now in a shelf where she and Elliott can share them. Whether from loving books or having pretty advanced language skills, Madeleine is very interested in discovering the alphabet all around her. About halfway through the year, she started to identify her most familiar letters in road signs. Then, she discovered that she could delay bedtime by asking her daddy about the letters of things in her room ("what does bed start with?" "what does octopus start with?"). Now, we're turning that around and having her tell us what letter she thinks begins the word, and she's definitely picking up on sounds. We joke that she has her own phonetic alphabet: Addie, Brody, Charlotte/Cooper, Daddy, Elliott, Farah, etc. I am not teaching her to read but do want to follow her interest in this area. 

Our Miss M loves her friends. We still meet weekly with our PEPS friends, who are more like family than friends. It has been so fun to watch the little friendships develop after so much time spent merely playing beside each other. She has made some good friends at her daycare, and we've even gotten together for a few playdates with them. Madeleine is remembering more and more of our friends and family, and it's neat to see those relationships grow. I've seen tremendous growth in Madeleine's social skills in the last couple of months in that she can now go into a room of strangers and make friends; she wants to talk to other kids at the park and generally be social. As a relatively reserved person myself, I'm both proud and envious of her courage. 

Despite the gender stereotype of females being more physically subdued, Madeleine is curious and can be very physical. She has no fear of heights or climbing or exploring new places. She can somersault, very nearly swim on her own, and spot puddles from a mile away. Thankfully, she seems to know her limits and rarely does things that are completely ridiculous. I'd like to think that this is a result of us giving her quite a bit of freedom to explore and discover her limitations for herself. She loves swinging and, while she can pump and swing herself, she strongly prefers asking to be pushed "high in the sky."

The aspect of Madeleine's personality that stands out the most to me is her nurturing nature. She loves her stuffed animals and babies, and she takes care of them as she dresses and (more often) undresses them, feeds them, burps them, reads to them, and puts them down for naps. Unsurprisingly, she has taken up breastfeeding this year and likes to steal blankets from her brother's room for her babies. While she has lots of trucks, she is more likely to be seen covering them with a blanket than racing them around the house. That said, she does still love garbage trucks and gets excited about watching them at work.

Madeleine has shown her independence this year. During rough patches, it manifested as nap strikes (for a whole month and a half beginning the week I was due for Elliott), climbing out of her crib, and power struggles surrounding potty training and clothes selection. 

On the other hand, her independence has led her to be able to completely dress and undress herself, and it's been the better part of a year since I've had to regularly help her put her shoes on or off. Most recently, Madeleine has also wanted to choose her clothes, and I am learning to give her that control, which is made easier by her love for dresses over the last month or so. Madeleine has also enjoyed helping in the kitchen throughout the year. It all started when I gave her the job of cleaning the potatoes and apples for Thanksgiving dinner, and she now loves to chop fruit and veg and make smoothies. As part of fostering her independence and reaffirming her as part of our family and household, Madeleine has also picked up some "jobs" around the house, including clearing her place at the table after every meal, bringing in the garbage bin from the street, and plugging in the electric car. 

Madeleine is great at independent play and does so for most of her play time. She does a lot of role play at this point, including taking care of her babies, cooking various creations, dressing up, and playing doctor. She has mastered changing her babies' diapers and doing snaps. She builds with her Duplo, usually cars, houses, castles, and towers. She watches a few episodes of Daniel Tiger each week and is largely disinterested in Sesame Street and Dinosaur Train, which were popular earlier this year. She enjoys art, especially stickers and painting, but I only allow her to do them under supervision. 

Her eating is totally unpredictable. There have been times this year where I swear she's turning down everything except mac and cheese, and there are times when she is begging for more asparagus. For the most part, she likes a wide range of foods with Chinese dumplings (pronounced dump-a-lings by Madeleine), mac and cheese, pizza, dill pickle soup, Mexican rice and beans, yogurt, apples, bananas, ranch dressing, ice cream, and salmon being pretty consistent favorites. I don't really acknowledge blanket likes/dislikes as far as letting them influence what we have or what she is offered, except that she has never liked avocado. Otherwise, I continue to offer her a variety of food, enforce the one "no thank you" bite, and give thanks for what a good eater she is most of the time. 

As unpredictable as Madeleine's eating can be, her sleep is pretty consistent. She goes to bed around 7:30pm and gets up somewhere between 7am and 8:30am. She very rarely gives us a hard time going to bed as her routine is largely the same as it has been her entire life. When she does, it tends to be delay tactics like asking for another trip to the bathroom, a drink of water, or thinking of some minute detail of the routine that was missed. Her daily nap happens after lunch, beginning somewhere between 1pm and 3pm. Right now, she naps about 75% of the time and otherwise lays in bed reading books or putting her dolls and animals to bed. She always sleeps with Bear in her arms and a subset of friends sleep at her feet. 

The week that I was due for Elliott, she climbed out of her crib, so she moved into her "big girl bed" shortly thereafter. With few exceptions, it has been a really good experience, and we're lucky that Madeleine respects the boundaries of the bed and generally stays there during appropriate times. 

Speaking of Elliott's arrival, Madeleine has experienced a number of emotions related to her role as big sister. She clearly loves Elliott. While he was immobile, she loved covering him with a blanket and treating him like one of her babies. Now that he's mobile and interested in all of her toys, her feelings can sometimes be more complicated. She can get aggressive with him, but in the next moment, she'll be calling him "my Elliott" and "my baby." And, thus, a sibling relationship is formed. 

Madeleine's new bed and new brother weren't the only big changes for her this year. We started potty training just before Thanksgiving, and we are still on the winding road to no accidents. She initially had a lot of success and has since experienced numerous regressions. With every step forward, we savor the progress and hope that the next regression will leave us with at least a little overall progress. 

Madeleine continues to be a good traveler and has 10 more flights under her belt after traveling to California, Hawaii, Texas, and Ohio. She now carries on her own backpack with her supplies, sits in her own seat, and watches PBS shows or plays on apps for some portion of most flights. She has adjusted to sleeping in different beds as we travel, and usually her first question upon arrival involves where she will sleep. 

Physically, Madeleine has grown quite a bit taller and finally has a good amount of hair. As of her check up, she is right in the 50th percentile for height and weight. 

I can't wait to see where this next year takes us as Madeleine enters preschool and begins a new era.